Karadzic arrest: better late than later

AFP/Getty Images This week’s arrest of the Bosnian-Serb war criminal Radovan Karadzic has made headlines almost as big as those announcing the arrest of Slobodan Milosevic back in 2001. The shocking photos of Karadzic disguised as a bearded Dr. Dabic have painted the whole story ridiculous; statements from Brussels highlighting the arrest as a milestone ...

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593740_080724_karadzic_820411052.jpg

AFP/Getty Images

This week's arrest of the Bosnian-Serb war criminal Radovan Karadzic has made headlines almost as big as those announcing the arrest of Slobodan Milosevic back in 2001. The shocking photos of Karadzic disguised as a bearded Dr. Dabic have painted the whole story ridiculous; statements from Brussels highlighting the arrest as a milestone trumpet the news that Serbia has really chosen a European future; and re-reported accounts from Bosnian Muslim victims have added an element of remorse for the fact that justice had not been brought sooner. But a lesser story today, that of Dinko Sakic, illustrates the long-term significance of Karadzic's overdue arrest.

Sakic, the last living commander of Jasenovac, the Croatian World War II concentration camp, died this week. Long after fleeing to Argentina, where he lived a rather vocal life in support of Croatian nationalism, Sakic was eventually tried and found guilty of killing thousands of Serbs and Jews -- but not until 1999, decades after his crimes were committed and years after those very crimes were used by Croat and Serb leaders alike to stir up nationalist fervor and inter-ethnic fear during the last bloody days of Yugoslavia.

AFP/Getty Images

This week’s arrest of the Bosnian-Serb war criminal Radovan Karadzic has made headlines almost as big as those announcing the arrest of Slobodan Milosevic back in 2001. The shocking photos of Karadzic disguised as a bearded Dr. Dabic have painted the whole story ridiculous; statements from Brussels highlighting the arrest as a milestone trumpet the news that Serbia has really chosen a European future; and re-reported accounts from Bosnian Muslim victims have added an element of remorse for the fact that justice had not been brought sooner. But a lesser story today, that of Dinko Sakic, illustrates the long-term significance of Karadzic’s overdue arrest.

Sakic, the last living commander of Jasenovac, the Croatian World War II concentration camp, died this week. Long after fleeing to Argentina, where he lived a rather vocal life in support of Croatian nationalism, Sakic was eventually tried and found guilty of killing thousands of Serbs and Jews — but not until 1999, decades after his crimes were committed and years after those very crimes were used by Croat and Serb leaders alike to stir up nationalist fervor and inter-ethnic fear during the last bloody days of Yugoslavia.

Fortunately the losses at Srebrenica and Sarajevo will not go the way of Jasenovac, whose significance and death toll still remain in question. Thanks to the work of the ICTY, the former Yugoslavia’s crimes of the 1990s have been investigated and documented in great detail, leaving far less room for future finger-pointing and fear-mongering. And with the EU promising future membership to all the countries of the Western Balkans, they’ll need all regional stability they can get.

For more reflections what Karadzic’s capture means, check out FP‘s interview with Richard Holbrooke, the man who did as much as anyone to bring peace to Bosnia. He’s thrilled:

I got the news on a train from New York to Washington. I’ve rarely been so excited about any news event in a positive sense. The world gets so much bad news, and to bring this man to justice, this terrible man, ranks right up there with capturing Saddam Hussein.

Lucy Moore is a researcher at Foreign Policy.

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